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Secondary Education: Coronavirus

Question for Department for Education

UIN HL3043, tabled on 12 October 2021

To ask Her Majesty's Government what plans they have to reintroduce COVID-19 safety measures in secondary schools in light of the increasing number of COVID-19 cases in younger people.

Answered on

26 October 2021

The department’s priority is for schools to deliver face to face, high quality education to all pupils. The evidence is clear that being out of education can cause significant harm to educational attainment, life chances, and mental and physical health. As COVID-19 becomes a virus that we learn to live with, there is now an imperative to reduce the disruption to children and young people’s education.

While the latest data and scientific modelling suggest that cases will continue to rise as restrictions are eased, we are now in a context that has fundamentally changed due to the success of the vaccination programme.

We have therefore moved away from stringent restrictions on everyone’s day-to-day lives, towards advising people on how to protect themselves and others, alongside targeted interventions to reduce risk.

All young people aged 16 and 17 years have already been offered a first dose of vaccine and 12 to 17 year olds with certain medical conditions that make them more at risk of serious illness, or who are living with someone who is immunosuppressed, are eligible for 2 doses.

To reduce transmission, the department is keeping some measures in place across nurseries, schools and colleges to enable us to provide as normal an experience as possible. This will be supported by our ability to respond swiftly and consistently to any exceptional circumstances should it prove necessary and may include reintroducing additional control measures for a limited period to deal with outbreaks. These are set out in the contingency framework:

Schools continue to have their own health and safety risk assessments and keep these under review. As part of this there are certain control measures we have asked schools to maintain in order to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19. This includes ensuring good hygiene for everyone, maintaining appropriate cleaning regimes and keeping occupied spaces well ventilated.

Carbon dioxide monitors have also been provided to all state-funded schools starting from September, so staff can quickly identify where ventilation needs to be improved. The government has also launched a trial of air purifiers in 30 schools in Bradford, which is designed to assess the technology in education settings and whether they could reduce the risk of transmission.

The department will continue to keep these measures under review, in partnership with health experts and informed by the latest scientific evidence and advice.